Assateague island is a 37-mie long barrier island located off the eastern coast of Maryland and Virginia. It is best known for its herds of wild horses, Beautiful beach's and Assateague Lighthouse. Although there is no road that runs the full length of the island, bridge access for cars is possible from both Maryland and Virginia.
There are 3 agencies on the island, Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park in Maryland, and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. Assateague Island National Seashore was established in 1965 to preserve the barrier island, surrounding waters, and provide recreational opportunities. The United Nations has designated Assateague as a World Biosphere Reserve. The U.S. Department of the Interior has designated it a National Natural Landmark. The Refuge was established in 1943 to provide habitat for migratory birds, primarily snow geese.
Humans and the island
The National Park service allows off-road vehicles to explore the beaches and other areas. You must have a permit to enter these areas, the permits can be purchased on the island. Car camping is also available and there are many camp sites located on the island National Seashore and Assateague State Park by reservation. There is no camping available from the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. pets are prohibited except on the some parts of the National Seashore. These area are marked with signs allowing or banning pets. Kayak touring is a popular way to see the wildlife, especially on the calmer bay side. The best time to back country camp is in the spring and fall. Summer months are known for heavy mosquito populations, particularly on the bay side.
Assateague State Park owns almost 800 acres (3.2 km2) and is in Maryland within the National Seashore. The state park is the most developed area on the island with 350 campsites. Most of the water around the island is within the boundaries of the national seashore. The island has a land area of 63.21 km² (24.4 sq mi) and has no resident population in either Maryland or Virginia, though a few retained rights properties existed until 2006. These were mainly hunting camps.
Assateague island Wild Horses
The horse species is commonly subdivided into horses and ponies. This distinction, made both on per-breed or per-individual basis, is sometimes a matter of disagreement. Though commonly called "Chincoteague Ponies", these animals are arguably horses. The Maryland horses are owned and managed by the National Park Service who have carefully followed the population over generations. In Virginia, these horses are owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. Once a year in July, "salt water cowboys" round up the Chincoteague ponies for auction on Pony Penning Day. The Maryland and Virginia horses are kept apart by fencing at the border between the two states.
The National Park Service no longer refers to the island horses as feral, meaning they are descendants of domestic animals, rather than wild horses. Although the horses are descendants of domesticated animals, their behaviors are consistent with their ancient ancestors.
To keep their numbers under control on the Maryland side, a federal contraceptive program has been in place since 1994. In Virginia, the auction keeps the horse population at levels required by agreement with the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
The Horses will walk right through some of the camps and some of them even get nosey when your having a BBQ or picnic! When I visited the island we went through a camp site and we found a herd of 6 horses, The Alpha Male, 4 females and 1 colt. The colt looked to be more or less 1 year old. They are not afraid or even phased by humans taking pictures and driving around them. In fact the horses walk right out in front of the cars!
There are over 320 species that are known to inhabit the island during some portion of the year.
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